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Anthony Davis Has Arrived: The Jumper is Dangerous

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Anthony Davis has displayed shocking growth over his first two seasons. Now is a good time to chart his improvements. Oh, and remind everyone he's just 21.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

What can you give for Christmas to that person on your list that already seems to have it all? Anthony Davis is the basketball player who has it all now. Despite logging the most efficient season for a 20 year old in NBA history last season, he still had one really big hole in his game that needed filling. After 24 games on the floor it is safe to say that hole in his game no longer exists. But first, let's take a look back.

A Work in Progress

Anthony Davis came into the league projected to be a defensive force and a work in progress on offense. Could he retain his guard skills and create his own shot? Would his jumper, which looked good, start finding the net frequently? Draft Express had this to say about Davis on offense in June 2012.

This analysis also provides us with solid insight into the things Davis needs to work on in the future. Just 13.5% of his possessions came on post-ups, the second lowest of this group after Furkan Aldemir and well under the average of 34% when taking all 26 big men prospects into account. His success rate—0.85 PPP—is below the average of 0.89, indicating that Kentucky's offense clearly wasn't losing much by electing not to throw the ball into the paint more than 1.6 times per game. It's safe to assume that Davis' usage rate as a pick and roll finisher (just 1.5 possessions per game) will rise once he reaches the NBA, but it will be interesting to see how his back to the basket game evolves as he continues to add weight to his 222 pound frame.

Jump shots attempts made up a decent amount of Davis' possessions—22%--but his 0.731 PPP also ranks well below average for this group (0.87), as he made just 23 of 67 (34%) attempts. Clearly this is something he'll need to continue to work on in time as well.

With his build and athletic ability developing that jump shot in today's NBA was critical to Davis as an offensive threat. No one thought of Davis as a traditional back-to-the-basket player from the outset. His ability to operate in the pick and roll depended on knocking down jumpers.

The Data

This summer I compared Anthony Davis to Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan; the two greatest power forwards of the last generation. AD was more efficient in his sophomore season than both, impressive in its own right. Davis accomplished that by taking more shots in the restricted area, turning the ball over less, and getting to the foul line more often. Those comparisons through three years continue to turn in AD's favor.

One area Davis lagged behind was on long twos. Duncan (43.84%) and Garnett (45.27%) lapped AD beyond 16 feet. In order to take the next step Anthony Davis had to improve his lackluster (36.84% last season) jumper to unlock the rest of the court. The pump-and-go off a pick and pop doesn't work if defenders are conceding the jump shot.

AD Growth

My word. 50% on long twos for Davis this season is an absolutely ridiculous improvement. While Davis continues to rely on others to create a great deal of his offense (70% of his makes are assisted according to Basketball Reference) the threat he provides, especially at the top of the key, is opening up much more of the offense. Let's take a look at Davis as a rookie and this season side-by-side.

Rookie Davis 
Davis Rookie

MVP Davis

Davis Year 3

Shooting that well at the top of the key makes life easier on everyone in a New Orleans uniform. The Pelicans continue to run pick-and-pop looks for Davis at roughly the same rate they did last season. 24% of AD's shot attempts this year and last according to SportVU came on the Catch and Shoot. Davis has turned those opportunities from league average offense to elite.

Catch and Shoot
FG% %FG
2013-14 39.00% 24.05%
2014-15 56.84% 24.11%

Most teams want to allow the long jump shot to a big man in a pick and roll. Almost every good defensive team permits these shots to avoid allowing open threes or layups. A Davis catch and shoot long two now functions at an Offensive Rating clip of 113.7. Only three offenses (Dallas, Toronto, and the Clippers) are more efficient so far this season. AD is going to break standard defensive tenets by himself.

AD Did What?

Big Men 6'11" 240 pounds should not be permitted to attempt this. Let alone look so smooth and confident while attacking Patrick Beverly in transition.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.